Nate McMillan, Thaddeus Young explain how Indiana Pacers recovered from Paul George trade
Instead, their pieces have developed ahead of schedule, and the Pacers are making a legitimate bid for a top-three spot in the Eastern Conference despite losing star shooting guard Victor Oladipo to injury in January.
“We kind of hit, I don’t know if I can say we struck gold, but Victor turned out to be a lot better than people were giving him credit for and ended up having an all-star season,” said coach Nate McMillan, who took over as Pacers head coach in George’s final season. “We jelled and started playing good basketball, and when you do that, you don’t have to go into a rebuild. It was more of a reload.”
That’s precisely what it was, said Young. A reload. That’s what he told anyone who would listen when the Pacers were roundly lambasted for trading George to Oklahoma City for “only” Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis.
That the Pacers remained competitive through such roster turnover is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked, Young added. Throughout his 12 years in the NBA, that’s something he hasn’t seen very often.
“KP (Kevin Pritchard) and Chad (Buchanan) have done a great job of giving us a team that can go out and compete,” said Young. “Nate and the coaching staff have done a good job of giving us a game plan to go out and execute; and the players have done a good job of building a culture and playing for one another. So it’s a great working relationship between everyone in this organization.”
Sabonis was originally viewed to be the afterthought in the deal sending George to the Thunder, but instead is averaging 14.1 points and 9.2 rebounds in just 24.7 minutes per game.